Black women on what Halloween means to them: ‘Dressing up and parading around was always a joy’

·5-min read

To many, Halloween is more than just a holiday that comes around once a year; it is a way of life, and Black women are no exception to living like that — in homage to horror and the occult.

With the decades-long lack of representation of Black women in horror films — notwithstanding several exceptions like Candyman (1992) and Blaxploitation-era flicks like Blacula (1972) — many people don't know about the history of Black women’s participation in horror and their presence in the Halloween and horror community. Now there are countless Black women creators who dedicate their content to their love of the occult and classic horror genres, but more often than not, they do not get the exposure they deserve. Thanks to films and series like Get Out (2017), Us (2019), the Candyman reboot (2021), Lovecraft Country (2020) and more, there is hope that this invisibility may soon change and end.

Blogger Michelle O’Brien, known as “Michelle Halloween,” fondly recalls a refreshing Halloween breeze as a fourth grader in Southern California.

“I remember the leaves blew and it was kind of warm, but it was like this spicy type of breeze that wafted through the school and I'm waiting in line to be let out, thinking, ‘OK, in a few hours, I'm going to be trick-or-treating. I can go home and go through my candy and I can eat it all night.' And it was that first dream that never left me,” she tells Yahoo Life.

Michelle Halloween started her blog in 2019 and uses her platform to not only share her love for the holiday but also to bring awareness to important issues. (Michelle Halloween)
Michelle Halloween started her blog in 2019 and uses her platform to not only share her love for the holiday but also to bring awareness to important issues. (Michelle Halloween)
Michelle Halloween is a regular at horror events. (Michelle Halloween)
Michelle Halloween is a regular at horror events. (Michelle Halloween)

The mother of four started her Halloween blog in 2019 after dealing with some mental health issues and admits she never thought it would take off like it has. Having been able to attend premier horror events and interview many horror icons, O’Brien also uses her platform to bring awareness to the heaviness within the realities of her Blackness, womanhood and queerness.

“As a Black fat woman, I'm living in an American nightmare right now, the actual horror story,” O’Brien notes. "It's so overwhelming at times, but all I can do is keep writing about my experiences.”

For Josy Love, a horror content creator in Fulton, Calif., her love affair with Halloween began in adulthood after being cast as a haunt monster at a haunted farm attraction, but says she has always loved dressing up as someone else since she was a kid.

“Dressing up and parading around was always a joy,” she admits. “I was super shy growing up and didn't think it was for me, but I wanted to try it for a week just to see what it was like; a week turned into two and next thing I knew I had stayed in the fog all season. Fast-forward and now I have creative freedom in a community haunt with my friends.”

Love adds, “Spooky things are just so cute to me — I know, not normally a word associated with creepy scary things. I just love being able to go to the mazes and different haunt events.”

Though the recent successes of Jordan Peele and Misha Green as Black forces in the horror genre shined a spotlight on the Black Halloween and horror community, this community has been around long before and still faces several unique struggles, including lack of representation.

"I have to work harder for exposure. I still don't feel like I'm taken seriously," O'Brien says.

Love notes her confusion when people were surprised to see her in these spaces.

“When I first started, I remember being confused by how shocked many people were to see a Black woman at these Halloween events, especially as a haunt actress," Love recalls. "Luckily I came at time where the hard parts were already paved by the women who came before me. For me, a majority of reactions I experienced were shock, then excitement for seeing another Black woman. Now, I think so many more are coming in to the community and there's less of that, which I hope means it's normalizing now to see haunting Black women. I'm thankful the haunt community has been so welcoming to me and I hope for the same to others."

Former Yahoo Life writer and activist Kamilah Newton, who shares beautiful and haunting makeup looks on Instagram — sometimes even including son Jeyson in the fun —notes the challenges of getting recognition and monetization as a Black creator.

"There's white girls on TikTok becoming millionaires off the [content] that Black people created. I think that those who are in charge really need to do what they gotta do to make it safe and inclusive for people that the general world is already not safe and inclusive for," Newton says. "Instead of [social media] being a direct reflection of the society that we already are needing to work on, [we should be] making it a reflection of the society that we hope to be one day and capitalize off of that because there will always be more blessings wherever there is good."

They have faced challenges as Black women creators, but just their very presence has made an impact. For Newton, it is this impact that keeps her going.

"I do it for the little girl, even in myself, who didn't have [the representation] or people who were trying to inspire them or trying to protect them. Those are the things that motivate me to be Black-women centered all the time. So, you know, it is always good when Black women link up. You know, we only make magic," she says.

And though things have definitely come a long way, there is definitely a long way to go to make sure Black women are represented in horror.

"[I want to see more] inclusivity," O'Brien demands. "I want to see more of us in cornfields. I want to see more of a hosting Halloween shows. I want to see more Black trans woman being given a chance. I want Black excellence to be highlighted."

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